The ending hasn’t changed, but in the same way that a director’s cut appeals to a Lord of the Rings fan who’s seen the theatrical and extended versions countless times, Cleveland Rocked appeals to Tribe fans itching for more information. And even if the payoff at the end of Zack Meisel’s tale of the 1995 Indians isn’t the Commissioner’s Trophy, the book is a good read that is enjoyable start to finish.
Of course, there’s a lot to work with when talking about the 1995 season. It’s a team that won 100 games in a shortened season. A team that ignited a 455-game love affair between a city and the players. But the story Meisel shares is more than just the scorecard, it’s heart of that team that became a juggernaut.
Meisel will be familiar to readers from his work as Indians beat writer for The Athletic, and because of that inside access he was able to score great interviews for the book. The information shared from Sandy Alomar, Carlos Baerga, Kenny Lofton, Jim Thome, Omar Vizquel, and many, many more enriches the book with detail no one else has compiled. The rowdy atmosphere of the clubhouse is detailed vividly, with characters like Wayne Kirby getting more exposure than they might have in any other telling.
Beyond having the access that comes with being a beat reporter, Meisel imparts earnest affection to the story. In the introduction, he establishes his bona fides, retelling his unique memory of how the ‘95 Indians stand out in his mind. Like many of us of a certain age, the ‘95 team was our introduction to Tribe baseball, our first love. This is true of Meisel, and his reverence for the team come through in the writing. He knows what the team means to Cleveland and the fans and delivers a story that matches that sentiment.
If there’s a criticism to be leveled at Cleveland Rocked, it’s that the story is almost too positive. In his autobiography, Omar Vizquel threw some pretty hefty punches at Jose Mesa just six years after his poor World Series outing cost the Indians; however, no players seemed ready to step up with anything too negative for Meisel. That said, one of the takeaways from the book is that the 1995 version of the Cleveland Indians was really special, and 25 years after the fact its possible that any of the negatives from that time have worn down and players really have no axe to grind any longer.
Meisel does deserve credit for staying pretty clear-eyed in his retelling. Twenty-five years later, with methods and decision-making much evolved, it’s easy to poke holes in some aspects of the team (how many of us would bat Thome or Manny Ramirez in the bottom half of the order?). Cleveland Rocked definitely points out the choices or moments that seem antiquated in hindsight, but with the final outcome, a World Series berth, always known, the book keeps everything in perspective very well.
Of course, it’s impossible to keep the last twenty-five years of Cleveland baseball out of the story, and weaving the past and present into the story of the ‘95 team is something Meisel does well. The asides about iconic moments in Tribe history, the way the ‘95 team was built, and the way the ‘95 team shaped the future of baseball in Cleveland all work together to form a more compelling narrative than anything focused solely on one year could have.
Overall, Cleveland Rocked is an entertaining read for Tribe fans of any age. Whether you lived the story or not, the book has something new to offer. The book was released May 12 via Triumph Books and you can grab a copy yourself at a local bookstore, which you can find via Bookshop.org or Indie Bound.
Because this is the first Indians-specific book I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing for Let’s Go Tribe, I want to share it with one of our readers. As mentioned in my interview with Zack Meisel, embedded in this article, I want to give a copy of Cleveland Rocked away to one of our readers. To win all you have to do is follow Let’s Go Tribe on Twitter and retweet our post about this article. We’ll select one reader at random Monday May 18, 2020, at 6 pm EST and have the book shipped from a bookstore near you. Thank you all for reading, and good luck!